A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel.

A WALK IN THE WORDS

A slow reader gains confidence.

Strongly influenced by Talbott’s own childhood reading journey, a young tot with a mop of brown hair and pale skin loves art, but reading doesn’t come as naturally. Crayons and colored pencils create imaginative worlds, but the words on a page crowd together, forming an impenetrable wall, with the youngster barely able to peer over. The rest of the class seemingly soars ahead, turning page after page, but the books (in the protagonist’s mind) give chase, flying menacingly like a scene from Hitchcock: “And they were coming for me! / So many words! So many pages!” Talbott expertly captures the claustrophobic crush of unknown vocabulary, first as a downpour of squiggles from the sky, then as a gnarled, dark forest with words lining the branches. But reading slowly doesn’t mean not reading at all. The youngster learns to search for familiar words, using them as steppingstones. And there are advantages: “Slow readers savor the story!” There is even a “Slow Readers Hall of Fame” included, featuring Albert Einstein, Sojourner Truth, and many others. Talbott excels at evincing concepts visually, and this talent is in evidence here as his protagonist first struggles then gains mastery, surfing confidently down a wave of words. Patience and curiosity (along with some fierce determination) can unlock incredible stories. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-54871-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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